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By Oscar Moncada, co-founder & CEO of Stratus10, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Advanced Consulting Partner.

Performed well, a cloud migration can set your organization up with a futureproof foundation that provides optimal performance, cost and scalability of your IT infrastructure. But without a defined plan in place, you can end up with reverse outcomes—particularly regarding migration and ongoing costs.

Here are five steps to set your cloud migration up for success.

1. Choose A Designated Migration Manager

A single individual should be appointed as the project manager. This individual will lead the Cloud Center of Excellence, which will take on internal responsibility for the migration.

This step might seem obvious, but many businesses begin cloud migrations with too many decision-makers sharing the role. Depending on the amount and sensitivity of data, a lot of stakeholders may need to sign off on any given process, which can bog down the project.

Department heads can give input in the early stages, then be provided with rationales later.

Not designating a lead manager right away can lead to teams performing without coordination, hampering the migration once it’s underway. The longer you spend time working with a committee model, the greater the costs and impacts on bandwidth.

2. Plan Out Your Account Structure

The second step is planning out account structure, security and governance at a high level. You don’t want everything in one account, but you do want a governance plan for all applications, workloads, resources and users. For that, you’ll need to determine clear migration KPIs.

Some requirements will be predetermined, like availability or latency. You’ll also want to factor in end-user considerations and the nuances of how the application or data will actually be used.

For example, if you provide patient chart data to home healthcare practitioners, they’ll require:

• High availability. Mobile healthcare professionals traveling between homes will need access to patient data wherever they are, at all times and as quickly as possible.

• Data security and privacy. Since healthcare data protected under HIPAA/HITECH is involved, you’ll need to ensure that access and storage are protected by strict security.

You can’t approach a cloud migration assuming that your results will automatically be better than on-premise hosting. That’s almost always possible, but only with the proper planning.

3. Determine What Type Of Migration Is Best

Based on your requirements and KPIs, you’ll then determine which path helps you arrive there. The first big decision to make is which strategy to follow, among the “6 R’s” of cloud migration:

• Rehost: Migrating your application and data as-is (“lift and shift”)

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• Replatform: Redesigning some elements to leverage the cloud (“horizontal scaling”)

• Refactor: Fully rearchitecting your application to be cloud-first

• Retain: Keeping some elements on-premise—ideal for longer migrations or compliance

• Retire: Moving unneeded functionalities to end-of-life (i.e., not migrating them at all)

• Repurchase: Replacing some functionalities with a third-party cloud option

Each strategy fits a different use case—don’t just default to “lift and shift” because it’s the fastest.

For example, software-as-a-service companies will also need to plan the migration of DevOps processes, which may need to be modified to operate on the cloud. For all companies, opting for minimal architecture changes may mean not taking full advantage of the cloud; it could lead to heavier workloads and operational challenges down the line.

4. Choose A Cloud Provider

The fourth step is making a critical decision: whether public or private best suits your needs.

Public clouds will have lower costs, unlimited scalability and effectively zero maintenance demands. You’re leveraging a third-party provider to handle it via their shared resources and specialization in cloud infrastructure—as with Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure.

Private clouds will be exclusive to your company, whether you build the infrastructure yourself or partner with a third party. Depending on the sensitivity of the data you’re working with, a private cloud may offer the most customization and protection against security issues.

There’s also hybrid cloud computing, which combines elements of public and private clouds.

5. Determine Your True Cost Of Ownership

Finally, your business needs to figure out its true cost of ownership, or the sum of all direct and indirect expenses for migrating to and maintaining a presence on the cloud.

Key considerations here begin with the actual costs of migrating individual applications and infrastructure. The more data and systems you migrate, or the more complex the process is (e.g., how much refactoring needs to happen), the higher these costs are likely to be. Beyond initial migration, you also need to consider ongoing licensing fees for your given solution.

But other factors to consider here include logistics around your team. What role will their skill sets play in the TCO? And will development teams be given the ability to create their own accounts? Doing so, they could potentially operate without guardrails, ballooning TCO.

Proper Planning For Prime Performance

Cloud migrations are an enormous undertaking, but they can be broken down into a simple step-by-step process with the right planning efforts. Whether going it alone or seeking out a cloud migration partner, you should designate internal leadership as soon as possible and get to know your needs and means backward and forward. That can help streamline your decisions about strategy and platform, simplifying both short-term migration and longer-term cloud management.

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